The Champaign County Historical Society’s Oktoberfest has always been family friendly. And, from all indications, the 2015 fundraiser, set for Oct. 4 at the society’s museum and grounds, 809 East Lawn Ave., will be no exception.
Vendor applications promise an abundance of the handmade and homegrown, the hallmark of Oktoberfest, as well as home-cooked foods and wholesome entertainment for patrons from the stroller set to senior citizens.
Parking is free in the city lot adjacent to the festival grounds and the paths on the spacious, tree-shaded lawn are easily navigated. Benches, snack stops and strolling musicians are restful diversions for adults and children.
The families who attend Oktoberfest are only half the story. Many of the items for show and sale will have been produced by families.
For the past 25 years, Doug and Katha Dill and their children have collaborated to create wood carving, intarsia, stained glass artifacts, needlework and furniture for Oktoberfest.
Jane Stimmel of Urbana and her daughter Mary Ruth, of Hilliard, will each have displays at Oktoberfest but with different specialties. Jane will demonstrate the decades-old art of caning a chair seat. She will share techniques and accept orders for caning of antique or contemporary furnishings.
Mary Ruth’s talents are aimed at a youthful audience. She is one of two Oktoberfest participants who will offer handmade, haute couture clothing and accessories for the 18” American Girl doll. She also makes upscale, colorful furniture and accessories for this popular doll companion who, according to American Girl, Inc., “celebrates girls.”
A trio of relatives, Mary Woodruff, Karen King and Addie King, has reserved space for diverse products. Mary, who has been an exhibitor at Oktoberfest since its founding, and daughter Karen will offer their original designs in hand-knit and crocheted clothing and accessories.
Addie will be next door with a display of her mystery novels, autographed on request. Addie is an attorney by trade who writes when she can. Nearly a dozen of her paranormal mysteries and contemporary fantasy books have been published.
Oktoberfest entertainers come in family form, too. Daniel Dye and the Miller Road Band give new meaning to the term “close family.” Dan is the leader of the band, plays guitar, harmonica and banjo and is uncle to the other four, who are brothers and sisters classically trained in cello, violin and mandolin. Finally, Sara Kelly, Dye’s sister, performs with him on a record to be released in 2016.
Children are the audience for several other exhibitors: Champaign County Library staffers will be on hand with face painting and fall-themed crafts. Madeline Schief of Springfield will bring colorful cloth books for pre-schoolers and Cindy Davis, also of Springfield, will offer handmade dolls.
Kids of all ages will be charmed by the soft, shy live alpacas on display alongside Susan Millice’s demonstration of the spinning and weaving of alpaca fleece. The accompanying boutique of Millice’s luxurious, hand-knit alpaca outerwear and accessories will include cozy, high fashion sweaters for cherished canine pets.
Retired Miami University art instructor Michael Hieber and portrait painter Deborah Steinmetz expand Oktoberfest offerings into the fine arts. Hieber’s specialty is wheel-thrown Raku and stoneware pottery, but, just for fun, he has included some pottery Jack-O-Lanterns with “unique expressions” to entertain little beggars’ night visitors.
Steinmetz will do 10-minute, on-site pastel sketches of people and pets and will accept commissions for more formal pastel portraits.
Husband and wife team Mark and Kim Bevan of Cable will tempt festival goers with apple dumplings from the Bevan kitchen. And, the traditional German-style potato salad and bratwurst meal is being prepared by The Farmer’s Daughter, Urbana family restaurateurs.
Oktoberfest proceeds support the Champaign County Historical Museum, which is staffed entirely by volunteers. Funds are invested in acquiring, restoring, preserving, cataloging and displaying priceless memorabilia and information that chronicle Champaign County’s fascinating past.
The museum will be open to Oktoberfest patrons during festival hours, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. What’s inside is all about families, too – maybe some of yours.
Sally Johnson is a regular contributor to this newspaper.